Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘primary colors’

I attended a very interesting lecture recently on color theory and color contrast in photography. It got me thinking about how to use color and color contrast in IPO photography. Yes, I know, most all IPO photographers shoot in color, so you may be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? Well, as with many elements in an image’s composition, color plays an important part in telling the image’s story as it evokes an emotional response and draws attention to or away from particular elements. Used wisely, color enhances images and the viewer’s experience.

Before considering colors in typical IPO settings and how to effectively use color in IPO photography, a quick review of color theory will be beneficial.

We perceive color from reflective, absorptive or transmitted light. In other words, the color of an object depends on how much of particular wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected.  For example, an apple appears red, because it absorbs all of the other colors and reflects red wavelengths of light.  A black object absorbs all the wavelengths of light. Solid object reflect light, while transparent objects will transmit light through them.

This visible light spectrum correlates to a wavelength range of 400 – 700 nanometers (nm) and a color range of violet through red. The visible colors from shortest to longest wavelength are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.  For more information, see the following articles:

With this in mind, go back to when you first learned about color as a child. Recall, that a traditional color wheel used by artists has 12 colors, as shown below, which can be divided into three categories:

  • Primary – Red, blue and yellow, which make up all other colors.
  • Secondary – Orange, green and violet, which result from mixing primary colors.
  • Tertiary – Red-violet, red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green and blue-violet, which result from mixing primary and secondary colors.

Color Wheel 1 - Shutterstock

Each color is called a hue. Color Value refers to a color’s lightness or darkness.  Within each color value are tints and shades. Tints refer to a color where white is added to lighten it, such as pink (red + white), and shades refer to a color where black is added to darken it, such as brown (orange + black).  See the color wheel below.

Traditional Artists Color Wheel 2

Color directly across from each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors; for example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. These colors can compliment each other or contrast with each other. There is no hard and fast rule about whether or not a particular color combination is pleasing.

But wait! There’s a twist when it comes to photography! Artists mix pigment, but photographers mix light, and light uses a set of different primary colors. As explained in the Franklin Institute’s helpful article:

“The primary colors of light are red, blue and green, and the secondary are yellow, cyan and magenta … Red and green paint, for example, make brown paint, but red and green light makes yellow light … When beams of light are mixed without any absorption, an additive process occurs. The more we mix the beams, the closer they get to white light.”

These primary colors form the basis of the “Additive Color (RGB) Model, named because black is the base and light is ‘added’ to eventually get to white, which is all of the colors together. Additive colors are seen in televisions, nature and computer screens.” Our retinas also are sensitive to these same primary colors. “Just as any color of the [light] spectrum can be made by mixing the three primary colors, so do our own eyes discern the various colors by sensing different wavelengths with these three receptors.”

With this in mind, a photographer’s RGB color wheel might look like this:

RGB color wheel

One more bit of theory before moving on. “Saturation is how intense colors appear. Over saturation of color can result in loss of detail or clipping. Vibrance is a smart-tool used in photo editing software that increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors as they are.” For more about the hue, color value, saturation and vibrance, see the following articles:

Without getting too much into the weeds of color management for image files (a topic for another day) and color theory, what’s key here is red, blue and green light are not only the primary colors in nature (the outdoors being the most frequent location of IPO photography), but they also are the primary colors we use to see and to create color in televisions and computer monitors, the most frequent viewing medium for IPO photographs. So, it makes sense to think of color in photography for the purposes of image composition in this context.

Part 2 of this series will discuss what colors may symbolize and how we perceive them on an emotional level. Part 3 will wrap up this series with examples and tips on how to effectively use color in IPO photography.  As always, thanks for visiting and Happy Shooting!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »